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Down and derby

Hard-hitting sport has jammers, blockers and a community that extends beyond Texas border

Maddie Doran

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On March 25, at the TXRD All Scar Army tournament, Ballard (back to camera) assists Abigail Stouffer after she knocks down the opposing team’s (Seattle tilted thunder rail peeps) jammer to prevent her from scoring points. Photo by Brent LeVelle, provided by Sutton Ballard. Photo by Brent Lavelle.

While many people go to the roller rink to have fun, in the process of roller skating they generally try to avoid running anyone over. For junior Sutton Ballard it’s quite the opposite: she runs over people for points. Kind of.

“In roller derby, each team sends out four blockers and a jammer,” Ballard said. “The jammer has to get through the other team’s blockers, and every blocker that they pass is a point.”

To earn points, the jammer has to pass the hips of the blockers. It sounds clean and simple, but like most things, it’s a little trickier in practice. Freshman Rowan Lerman, Ballard’s teammate, sees this hard-hitting sport as more than just whacking people; there’s a significant community element to it.

“Having teammates at school that are older is really nice,” Lerman said. “They have helped me with some of my struggles that I have had.”

Ballard also enjoys the fact that her teammates are also her schoolmates.

“At McCallum, the girls on the team hang out a lot, and we just talk about derby,” Ballard said. “It’s kind of funny, because our friends get so confused, and we do fun stuff like hit each other down the hallway.”

Ballard doesn’t just enjoy the group of derby girls at McCallum—her team is also connected to the national derby community. 

“The community as a whole is just super supportive no matter where you go,” Ballard said. “All the teams that we play have always been super nice. Our team is friends with teams from around the country, [and] we regularly talk over text, because we like to be around each other.”

Ballard and Rowan’s team travels all around the country to be able to play due to the low volume of teams in the Austin area.

“We have been to Kansas and Oklahoma, and we used to do a lot of stuff here, but there is only one Austin flat track team and one in Round Rock,” Ballard said.

“We just started a bank-track junior team, which is like what they do in the movie Whip It, and we are the only junior team in Texas. We are going to go to Seattle in June to play their team, and they came here a few weeks ago to play us.”

Ballard plays on up to four teams at a time, therefore spending plenty of time practicing.

“I skate with three to four teams, so I practice five days a week,” Ballard said. “My flat track team practices four times a week, and my bank track team practices once a week. But I also skate with adult teams, so that is why I practice a little more often.”

 

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